Meet the Chaplain: Fr. Chris Monturo – Westchester County Chapter
From funeral director consoling the grief-stricken, to priest refreshing souls
Father Chris Monturo jokes that he celebrated his first Mass when he was six years old. Wearing a purple Washington Redskins poncho for a chasuble, the young Father Monturo could recite almost all the prayers of the Mass from memory.
Today, Father Monturo, 46, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in West Harrison, New York. He is chaplain of several local organizations, including the Westchester County Airport and Legatus’ Westchester County Chapter. He shared his vocation story, his passion for aviation and his background as a funeral director in a recent interview with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
When did you discern you had a vocation to the priesthood?
I knew when I was six years old that I was going to be a priest. I always felt called to it. I really feel like it wasn’t my decision. My decision was following the vocation that was given to me by God. I’ve always felt that God created me to be a priest.
What did you do before you entered the seminary?
I was a funeral director. I was always attracted to the funeral service as well. To me, it’s not a business. You’re of service to people in a very difficult time and I became very deeply involved in that. One year, I enrolled in mortuary college in Atlanta. I went to the orientation, but at the end of the orientation, I went to the president and said, “Thank you for your kindness, but I know what I have to be and I know what I’m going to do, and I have to follow that.” It was not too long after that I entered the seminary for the Archdiocese of New York in the fall of 1995.
When were you ordained?
On May 17, 2003. And let me tell you, there has not been one day in my nearly 15 years as a priest that I have not at one point or another experienced something — maybe in the confessional, at Mass, or in a hospital room — that I haven’t walked away, looked up and said, “Lord, thank you for calling me to be a priest.”
What do you do as an airport chaplain?
I attend monthly airport meetings of all the important heads of the agencies at the airport. I coordinate the emergency disaster response if, God forbid, there were to ever be a disaster, a plane crash of any type, or any sort of mishap that would require the service of chaplains. I’m also working on getting a little interfaith chapel in the airport and putting in religious paraphernalia so travelers can have access to that. I also go up there on Ash Wednesday to bring ashes to the employees and passengers.
What drew you to the airport chaplaincy?
I always dreamed of being a pilot. I love airplanes and I love everything about aviation. Recently, I was on the last Boeing 747 flight of any domestic U.S. carrier, a Delta Airlines flight from Seattle to Atlanta. My younger brother is a captain with Delta and I fly with him privately whenever we can.
What are your thoughts on being a Legatus chaplain?
Legatus is a great idea that Tom Monaghan came up with to evangelize from the top-down within industry and business. I’m happy to be part of it. Anything I can do to be of service to the work that Legatus does, I’m very delighted to cooperate.
Do you have any hobbies?
I also enjoy music and spending time with family. I’m very much into physical fitness. I run and ride a bike. I’m very conscious of my own personal well-being and I try to take care of myself. I try to encourage others to do the same.